At THP, we teach everyone that, “Nothing is Impossible.” It is the very spirit of our company.

But unfortunately, it still remains true that when it comes to gender equality, too many women find that there are barriers in place to their advancement.

Some of these barriers are visible. A Vietnamese job advertisement may stipulate that only men need apply, for example. It is extremely sad that this is still all too common in my country during the 21st century.

However, the most barriers are the ones that are not visible at all and they are often completely unconscious too, which makes them harder to change. The person displaying the bias may not even realise that they have onhe.

This is why it is heartening that Vietnam does not just celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, but has its own National Women’s Day on October 20 – Ngày phụ nữ Việt Nam – as well.

I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate all the women in my life from my mother and sister Bich, to all the work sisters whom I interact with on a daily basis.

As the second generation of a family-owned company, Bich and I work extremely hard to achieve the company’s vision to thrive for 100 years and beyond. And an important part of achieving that involves promoting women in our own work force.

One way we try to do this is to set the best example we can of what women can achieve if they have the determination and a willingness to work hard. We hire people and promote them based on aptitude. Our employee handbook and our six core values describe positive human attributes that apply to anyone no matter their age, gender or ethnicity.

So I feel very confident when I wear colourful dresses to work. They do not define the person I am and whether that “femininity” is perceived a positive, neutral or negative attribute.

What they do is give me inner confidence that enables me to project warmth and encouragement onto others. Few things are more winning than a smile, no matter who you are.

Outside of THP, it is also good to see the progress that Vietnamese women are making in the workplace. The World Economic Forum’s 2002 Gender Gap report ranks Vietnam 31 out of 146 for economic participation. This is higher than many developed countries including, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

Yet, while there are lots of women in the labour force here, there is still a big gap when it comes to holding senior managerial roles. The most recent World Bank/International Labour Organisation (ILO) data shows that women fill 20% of middle and senior management positions in Vietnam.

This is less than half the level in the US where the figure is 43%. Closer to home, it is also less than Singapore (39%), the Philippines (35%), Thailand (33%) and even neighbouring Cambodia (29%).

This will change for the better in line with our rising GDP and the influence of the many multinationals that are reconfiguring their supply chains from China to Vietnam. I look forward to the next decade and the progressive closing of a gap that will benefit all of us.

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